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TOPSTORIES

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    It’s full steam ahead with labour reforms that will increase the minimum wage to $14 an hour in January and $15 the year after that.

    A legislative committee studying the bill concluded its clause-by-clause work this week, setting the stage for its passage in the fall session of the legislature, which begins Sept. 11.

    Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said Tuesday the legislation is “stronger and fairer,” having been subjected to summer hearings held in 10 cities across the province.

    “Our amendments will address some of the concerns of small businesses, while maintaining protections for workers,” said Flynn.

    “By adding a new separate leave for victims of domestic and sexual violence, we’re giving victims and their families the time and support they need while they deal with tremendously difficult circumstances,” he said.

    Flynn noted the Liberals backed NDP amendments to increase “transparency and clarification” to the collective bargaining process for unionized workers.

    The bill, which, unusually, was studied by a legislative committee after first reading, must now pass second reading and possibly another round of standing-committee scrutiny before third reading and enactment.

    To offset the impact on businesses when it takes effect next year, Premier Kathleen Wynne has promised relief measures that will be unveiled in the months ahead.

    NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the legislation still falls short of what workers need.

    Horwath castigated the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives for not supporting the New Democrats’ bid to have five days of paid emergency leave days for all workers, up from the Grits’ proposed two, and an additional five unpaid days.

    The Liberal plan allows for two paid days, after which workers can take up to eight days off for an emergency without pay.

    As well, the NDP wanted three weeks of paid vacation after one year of employment, instead of the Liberals’ pledge of that much time after five years at the same job. Workers are currently entitled to two weeks off.

    Tory MPP John Yakabuski (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke) said his party had hoped for an economic impact analysis before moving forward with raising the hourly minimum wage from $11.40 now to $14 next year and $15 in 2019.

    “You have to do one that is pertinent to Ontario. I want their homework to be done, so that we can understand what the economic impact of this is going to be: positive and negative,” Yakabuski said in an interview.

    “Some people are going to be affected positively; other people are going to be affected negatively. We need to know that. It’s the old carpenter’s rule: measure twice, cut once.”

    With the next provincial election set for June 7, 2018, Flynn indicated the Liberals plan to use the labour changes to campaign against the Tories, accusing PC leader Patrick Brown of having a “lack of commitment to Ontario workers.

    “The fact his caucus stayed out of most of the discussion and debate shows (both) his party’s disinterest in these much-needed reforms, and Brown’s indifference when it comes to the rights of workers in this province.”


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    Few people would have the nerve to straddle a steel beam hanging near the top of the CN Tower, or to shout “Hey, Queen!” in the presence of royalty.

    Nothing could stop Boris Spremo from getting his million-dollar photo.

    The retired Star photographer made it his business to document history, whether he was shooting a war, or capturing a Canadian prime minister during a lighter moment.

    Spremo has died at the age of 81. He had been diagnosed with cancer in February. He took a turn for the worse last week, according to his family.

    “He was the light of everyone’s life,” said his granddaughter Jessica Spremo. “He was constantly cracking jokes. He never took anything too seriously. (He was) always looking for an adventure.”

    Spremo was born in Yugoslavia and came to Canada in 1957 after a stop in Paris. Following four years at The Globe and Mail, he joined the Star in 1966, where he spent 34 years as a photojournalist. He retired in 2000.

    Photos: Boris Spremo, legendary Toronto Star photojournalist passes away

    Editorial: Boris Spremo personified photojournalism in Canada

    A member of the Order of Canada who was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame, Spremo received 285 national and international photojournalism awards in a lifetime of photography.

    His work took him to conflict zones including Vietnam, Grenada, Northern Ireland, Israel, Gaza and Iraq. He documented famine and drought in Central Africa in 1983 and the plight of Kurdish refugees in 1991.

    “He never lost sight of where he came from,” Jessica said. “Having that perspective, he could relate to people . . . and have them, kind of, be comfortable, if only for a few minutes, in the situations that they were in.

    “He treated everyone the same.”

    Photos he took in Canada stood out. Known for his dogged pursuit to find the perfect shot, Spremo developed a rapport with politicians, including prime ministers Pierre Trudeau and John Diefenbaker.

    In 1976, he captured Diefenbaker in silhouette working on his post-retirement memoirs while at a summer cottage in Barbados. The photo of Canada’s prime minister, resting in a lounge chair as the sun peeked out from the clouds following a rainfall, secured Spremo one of his many National Newspaper Awards.

    Spremo was lauded for his photo of Trudeau the day after the latter won the 1980 federal election. It was one of the most recognizable photos of the former prime minister.

    Camped outside Trudeau’s office until his staff finally let Spremo in, the photographer urged him, “Do something for me! Give me a picture!”

    Trudeau decided to fire off a paperclip from an elastic band.

    “That to me is the quintessential Boris picture, right there, because it sums up his personality, his style,” said Star photographer Richard Lautens.

    “Who else is going to get a sitting prime minister to sit there behind the desk on Parliament Hill firing elastics?

    “He was willing to talk anybody into anything.”

    Having known Spremo for 40 years, Lautens considered him a mentor. He was a “mythic figure, this larger-than-life character” with a personality “you could barely fit in a room,” he said.

    “He had this personality, this drive. He would get in anywhere. He would never take ‘no’ for an answer,” Lautens said. “He would step on his own mom for a picture, especially an exclusive. I always figured he’d be around as long as Mt. Rushmore.

    “His face should be up there somewhere.”

    Said former Star photographer and senior editor Fred Ross: “He worked his ass off” to get the right shot.

    It was important to Spremo to get his photo on the Star’s front page the following day.

    Ross recalled how the photographer would keep track of all his front-page pictures and how he’d grow restless, even to the point of nudging Ross for better assignments, when he went a while without one.

    “He never took any pictures. He made pictures. Big difference,” Ross said. “First class is probably not a definitive enough term for him. He lived and loved to make pictures.

    “That was his whole being.”

    Lautens said Spremo “would just kind of own the paper whenever he was working.

    “He would see me or anybody else in this place as much competition as anybody else,” he said. “Then he’d give you that big smile and everyone would go, ‘Well, that’s Boris.’ ”

    Torstar chair and former Star publisher John Honderich referred to Spremo as a “giant” – although “I’m not sure that even ‘giant’ does justice to his career,” Honderich said.

    “Boris definitely knew what he wanted in life and the chain of command was not something he felt was particularly relevant. He would just come and knock on my door all the time and say this is what he wanted to do. He was full of stories, full of life, vivacious.

    “This man lived every inch of his life and every inch of his career.”

    Spremo’s photographic style differed from many of the techniques used by his competitors, according to Lautens.

    To him, it was about capturing a moment from the perfect spot at the perfect time.

    “Most of the stuff you see of his has got a humorous little twist to it, but extremely personal,” he said. “The style he shot in is very much kind of the way your eye might see things, whereas most photographers would always try and do something visually different, use certain lenses or certain lighting. He was willing to put himself in the line of fire. He was willing to risk pretty much everything to get himself in that position to make that image.

    “It was that kind of intimate approach that, kind of, sold the deal.”

    Spremo was not afraid to take readers to the highest of heights. On one occasion, he shot a CN Tower ironworker at 440 metres above ground.

    “He was very famous for climbing up on skyscrapers and doing crazy stunts to get the best angle,” said Ken Faught, a former Star photographer and photo editor. “He was just a bulldog. It was his way or the highway.”

    His sense of humour also had an edge.

    Tasked with covering a Papal visit in 1984, Spremo was on Pope John Paul II’s train, which ran from Sherbrooke to Trois-Rivières, Que.

    As the pope sat in the fourth car of the train by a window, with a light on him so that people at the stations could see him as the train passed by, media set up camp in the first car.

    But they grew bored during the long trip, prompting Spremo, partially as a result of some egging on from fellow media, to fold up one of the blow-up cushions into a shape similar to the pope’s mitre, throw on a table cloth and hold a monopod as a staff. The impression was complete with a papal wave.

    “People started taking photos of him instead of the actual pope,” said Jessica Spremo. “When the pope actually went by, all these people were walking away.”

    The stunt landed him in hot water and some media picked up the story.

    In another instance, legend has it that Spremo, in attempt to get the attention of a wayward-looking Queen Elizabeth II on a visit to Canada, shouted, “Hey Queen! Look over here!”

    “All the protocol guys were, like, ‘You can’t talk to the Queen like that,’ ” Lautens laughed.

    When Spremo retired from the Star, it was obvious to everyone that he wasn’t ready to stop shooting.

    “It’s inspiring, not just for journalists everywhere, but for anybody in any occupation, to see a guy who has that fire in his belly his entire life,” said Lautens. “Even to this day, I’m still in awe of the guy.

    “For the longest time, he was photojournalism in Canada.”

    Spremo remained active in retirement, playing tennis five times a week and spending time at his Lake Simcoe cottage, where he loved to be on a boat.

    He also got tremendous joy out of his 1959 Cadillac, “my baby,” as he liked to call it, according to his granddaughter.

    In retirement, he kept shooting photos.

    “He never went anywhere without a camera, whether to the store or on a trip,” Jessica said. “He always said, ‘You never know where you’re going to get that million-dollar photo.’ ”

    Spremo is survived by his wife Ika, their four daughters and seven grandchildren.


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    The province and Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. are trying to block a ruling that orders former premier Dalton McGuinty, his finance minister and other senior officials to answer questions under oath about the 2012 cancellation of a lucrative slot machine revenue-sharing program.

    The case centres around a $65-million civil claim by a group of horse breeders who argue they’ve been unfairly cut out of revenues from slot machines at racetracks. A 1998 slot agreement allowed for money from the machines to be shared among the province, horse breeders and racetracks annually.

    But the province announced on March 12, 2012, it was ending the plan with a year’s notice, opting to reallocate slot revenues for health care and other government initiatives.

    The breeders allege that before an important February 2012 cabinet meeting on the revenue-sharing plan, some powerful people met secretly and resolved to get the slots deal axed.

    The breeders say they launched their claim after the province and OLG paid $80 million in compensation to track owners, but refused to discuss compensating breeders. The breeders say that before the cancellation they’d been encouraged by the province to keep breeding horses.

    The matter is being heard in the Superior Court of Justice in Guelph by Justice Michael Emery.

    The suit against the province includes claims of breach of contract, negligence and unjust enrichment. The province and OLG are trying to have the suit tossed out, claiming in statements of defence that they’ve done nothing improper.

    Earlier this month, over objections from the province and OLG, Emery ordered that McGuinty, former finance minister Dwight Duncan and 11 others including their chiefs of staff, economist Don Drummond and Rod Seiling, the former chair of the Ontario Racing Commission, give evidence under oath relating to the cancellation of the revenue-sharing.

    But this week the province and OLG filed a motion seeking leave to appeal Emery’s decision, and in the meantime, a stay of the summons that calls on McGuinty and the others to give evidence.

    In their motion, set to be heard at Divisional Court in Toronto, the province and OLG argue in part that Emery didn’t apply the proper legal test when it came to their bid to quash the breeders’ requests for McGuinty and the others to come forward.

    Emery had suggested that the onus was on the province and OLG to prove the summonses should be quashed, which effectively reversed the onus in established case law, lawyers for the province and OLG argue in their latest motion.

    Jonathan Lisus, a lawyer for the breeders, said Tuesday that Emery applied the law correctly and gave a “balanced sensible decision” that the witnesses being asked to come forward were connected to the decision to cancel the revenue sharing, and therefore have relevant evidence to give to the court.

    In an email, Tony Bitonti, an OLG spokesperson said “as the matter continues to be before the courts, it would not be appropriate to comment.”

    Ministry of the Attorney General spokesperson Emilie Smith issued a similar statement.


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    ORLANDO, FLA.—Authorities in Florida say an auto theft suspect who wanted to watch the moon blot out the sun instead has a blot on his record.

    The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said on its Facebook page that Jocsan Rosado was arrested Monday after he parked what deputies say was a stolen car to watch the eclipse.

    Deputies say Rosado stole the vehicle, and unbeknownst to him, was being followed by detectives with the auto theft unit.

    Deputies say he stopped at a hardware store to purchase a welding mask for watching the eclipse safely.

    He was arrested next to the stolen car, wearing the welding mask and looking up at the sky.

    There were no online court records for Rosado early Tuesday, and it was unknown if he had an attorney.

    Read more:

    Millions gaze in wonder as historic solar eclipse sweeps across U.S.

    ‘Don’t look!’ yells White House staffer as Trump looks at solar eclipse without glasses

    Next total solar eclipse will be visible in parts of Canada in 2024


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    A group of activists is asking the Ontario auditor general to probe what they claim is “the use of non-evidence-based decision-making” in the approval of expensive Toronto-area transit projects.

    Scarborough Transit Action plans to file a request with Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk on Wednesday morning requesting that her office investigate the planned construction of the Kirby and Lawrence East GO Transit stations, as well as the Scarborough subway extension.

    “The auditor general has a responsibility to ensure that there is a good value for money, and we feel that this is very bad value for money,” Moya Beall, a spokesperson for the group, said in an interview Tuesday.

    The auditor general is tasked with overseeing provincial spending and reporting any misuse of public funds. A spokesperson for her office did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday evening.

    As the Star has previously reported, Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency for the GTHA, approved the two new GO Transit stations in June 2016 as part of its regional express rail expansion despite reports that showed they would be a drain on the transit network.

    Business case analyses commissioned by Metrolinx found that both the Kirby station in Vaughan and the Lawrence East stop in Scarborough would attract few riders, and would actually lead to a decrease in ridership on the GO network because adding the additional stations would increase travel time for other passengers.

    The resulting uptick in car use would lead to an additional 869.8 million kilometres driven on the region’s roads over the next 60 years, along with increased congestion and pollution, and millions of dollars in foregone transit revenue, the analyses found.

    The Kirby stop would cost $125.8 million to build and operate over 60 years, while the Lawrence East station was projected to cost $45.8 million.

    As the Star reported in June, an internal report prepared for Metrolinx by a consultant but that the agency never made public recommended that neither Lawrence East nor Kirby be approved, and determined they should not be considered for the next 10 years.

    An advance copy of Scarborough Transit Action’s request to the auditor general that was provided to the Star claims Metrolinx officials “ignored the business-case analysis” in what the group described as a “political overruling” of the evidence.

    The request notes that Kirby station is in the riding of Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, while Lawrence East is a part of Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack plan.

    Del Duca and Tory have denied doing anything to improperly exert influence over the approval process.

    The complaint also asks Lysyk’s office to “investigate whether a comprehensive analysis” should be carried out to compare the one-stop, $3.35-billion Scarborough subway extension that has been approved by council to a 24-stop LRT network proposed for the same area.

    A comparison between the LRT proposal and the subway project, which is being built with $1.48 billion in provincial funds, has never been done by either the city or provincial government.

    “This analysis would ensure that the contribution from the provincial government provides Ontario taxpayers with the best value for money,” the complaint reads.

    The activist group has already filed a complaint with the city’s auditor general about a misleading briefing note about the Scarborough subway project authored by the TTC. The group is awaiting a report.


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    YUMA, ARIZ.—Fresh off a speech on Afghanistan that moved him in a different direction from many of his core voters, President Donald Trump is highlighting his pledge to combat illegal immigration by visiting a Marine Corps base along the U.S.-Mexico border Tuesday.

    Trump also scheduled a nighttime rally in Phoenix, which left local officials concerned that emotions may run hot among those inside and outside of the hall so soon after Trump blamed “both sides” for violence at a rally organized by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    One potential flashpoint was extinguished when the White House ruled out a pardon, at least for now, for former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

    Trump told Fox News in a recent interview that he was considering issuing a pardon for Arpaio, who awaits sentencing after his conviction in federal court of disobeying court orders to stop his immigration patrols.

    Read more: Stop saying ‘Mexico is not going to pay for the wall,’ Trump urges Mexican president in leaked transcript

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said a pardon was off the table for the time being.

    “There will be no discussion of that today (Tuesday) at any point, and no action will be taken on that front at any point today (Tuesday),” Sanders told reporters travelling with Trump.

    Trump’s first stop was a Marine Corps base in Yuma that is a hub of operations for the U.S. Border Patrol. Trump inspected equipment used on the southern border, including a drone, helicopter and boat, which were on display in a hangar at the base. At one point Trump was spotted patting the side of the drone.

    Trump also shook his head as he was shown a series of everyday objects, such as a fire extinguisher, that had been refashioned to secretly transport drugs across the border. After the tour, Trump spent about 20 minutes greeting service members in the gruelling, 106-degree heat, signing caps with his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan and posing for selfies on the tarmac just steps from Air Force One.

    Administration officials briefing reporters on the trip said the area had seen a 46 per cent drop in apprehensions of people attempting to illegally enter the U.S. between Jan. 1 and July 31, compared with the same period in 2016. None of the officials would agree to be identified by name.

    In fact, immigrant traffic around Yuma has dramatically slowed over the past dozen years. Once a hotbed for illegal immigration, the Border Patrol sector covering Yuma now ranks among the lowest in the Southwest for apprehensions and drug seizures.

    There were some 138,000 apprehensions in 2005. The number had dropped to 14,000 by last year.

    Trump is trying to shift the focus to his core campaign theme of getting tough on immigration after rankling some of his most loyal supporters with his decision, announced Monday, to maintain to a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. They are also unhappy about the recent ouster of conservative Steve Bannon as White House chief strategist.

    Bannon had made it his mission to remind Trump of what his most fervent supporters want from his presidency, and some conservative strategists have openly worried that without Bannon around, Trump will be too influenced by establishment Republicans on issues such as Afghanistan policy.

    Democratic leaders and other Trump opponents planned protests and marches outside the Phoenix convention centre to criticize the president’s immigration policies and his comments about Charlottesville. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton had asked Trump to postpone the rally to allow time for national healing after one woman was killed during the clashes in Charlottesville.

    Read more:

    Trump’s plan to win in Afghanistan involves sending 3,900 more troops, officials say

    Donald Trump again echoes white supremacists over removal of ‘our beautiful’ Confederate statues

    Paul Ryan says Trump ‘messed up’ Charlottesville response, rejects censure

    Gov. Doug Ducey, a Trump supporter, was expected to greet Trump upon his arrival in Phoenix, but will not attend the rally to focus on safety needs, his spokesman said.

    Vice-President Mike Pence, asked about the rally by Fox News Channel on Tuesday, said Trump will be “completely focused” on his agenda for the country.

    “He’s also going to call on the Congress to get ready to come back when they arrive on Sept. 5th and go straight to work to make America safe again, make America prosperous again, and in his words, to make America great again,” said Pence. He was flying separately to Phoenix to introduce Trump at the rally.

    Neither of Arizona’s two Republican senators planned to appear with Trump.

    Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a conservative, has been a frequent target of Trump’s wrath. The president tweeted last week: “Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!” Flake has been on tour promoting his book that says the Republican Party’s embrace of Trump has left conservatism withering.

    Ward planned to attend Trump’s rally, sparking talk that the president could take the politically extraordinary step of endorsing her from the stage over an incumbent Republican senator.

    In a modest but telling swipe at Ward and, by extension, at Trump, the Senate Leadership Fund, a political committee closely aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is spending $10,000 on digital ads that say of her, “Not conservative, just crazy ideas.”

    Arizona’s other senator, John McCain, is undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer. Trump has been critical of McCain for voting against a Republican health care bill.


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    The province does not plan to intervene after the African Canadian Legal Clinic asked it to investigate Legal Aid Ontario’s decision to suspend their funding.

    The ACLC called legal aid’s decision “biased, unjust and racist” in a press release Tuesday, saying that the clinic was wrongly stripped of funding even though it has taken the necessary steps to ensure financial accountability after years of back and forth with legal aid.

    Legal Aid Ontario denies racism had anything to do with the decision. The organization had concerns about the clinic’s financial management after a 2013 audit revealed personal purchases made on the clinic’s credit card by executive director Margaret Parsons, and money paid to Parsons that appeared to be hefty bonuses.

    Parsons has maintained that she has never received a bonus from the clinic — only overtime pay she was owed — and that she paid the clinic back for a personal purchase she mistakenly made on the clinic’s credit card.

    The ACLC press release said the organization implemented eight conditions for funding that were previously outlined by legal aid, and that a forensic audit by Price Waterhouse Coopers found no embezzlement, fraud, or misappropriation of funds.

    Julian Falconer, the lawyer who advised legal aid on issues related to the ACLC, said that the final decision was made by legal aid’s clinic committee after several audits revealed apparent financial mismanagement.

    The press release claim that the decision was unjust, Falconer said, is “simply not borne out by the findings and the clinic committee decisions.”

    Falconer said that the ACLC’s concern about the lack of diversity on legal aid’s board of directors — one issue raised in the press release — was valid, but that it does not change the nature of the organization’s decision regarding the clinic.

    “Very important issues of race are being injected when it really becomes an issue of accountability for an executive director,” Falconer said.

    Parsons said Tuesday that the organization is asking the province to intervene with a “thorough and independent investigation” into the decision because the organization feels that the LAO was not objective.

    “It was a forgone conclusion,” Parsons said, referring to the formation of the LAO’s Black Advisory Committee which she saw as legal aid moving to replace ACLC before a decision had officially been made about the clinic’s funding future.

    “Whenever it started… it was biased, and it was made to replace us,” Parsons said.

    The province said that it does not intend to intervene in legal aid’s decision.

    “The Clinic Committee of Legal Aid Ontario reached its decision following a thorough adjudicative process, which included multiple third-party audits,” a ministry of the attorney general spokesperson told the Star.

    Falconer said that legal aid has both short- and long-term plans to serve the African Canadian community when ACLC loses its funding.

    The Human Rights Resource Centre and private practitioners have stepped up to fill the gap until a new clinic — to be formed using input from the advisory committee — gets off the ground, he said.


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    Employees at the Uniqlo store at Toronto Eaton Centre voted Tuesday against joining a union that organizers had hoped would be able to improve working conditions at the Japanese retailer’s first Canadian location.

    “I voted yes for better working conditions, for better scheduling and also for respect,” said Jasper Lim, 22, a part-time employee and history student at the University of Toronto.

    “I feel disappointed by the results because I definitely thought it would succeed.”

    Only 35 of the 120 employees who voted on Tuesday — 169 were eligible to vote — cast ballots in favour of joining Workers United Canada, a union with roots in the garment trade. Eighty-four employees voted against the union and one ballot was spoiled, said Tanya Ferguson, organizing co-ordinator for Workers United Canada Council.

    Just a week earlier, the union had the support of more than 40 per cent of employees, who had signed union cards, triggering the vote.

    Ferguson and Lim said that after management was notified of the union drive, employees in routine team meetings, held at the start of every shift, were told that they would take home less money if they joined a union because they would have to pay union dues.

    Employees were also led to believe that they would no longer be able to speak directly to managers about their working conditions, Lim said.

    “They created a campaign that was based on fear and they disseminated some misinformation,” said Lim.

    Scheduling emerged as a key issue. Employees are scheduled to work shifts that include an unpaid hour-long lunch and an unpaid half-hour break later in the shift, which means they must be available for 9.5 hours of work while only being paid for eight.

    Yasuhiro Hayashi, Uniqlo Canada chief operating officer, said the success of the store to date has been due to the hard work of employees and that he sees the vote as an opportunity for the company to improve how they engage with employees moving forward.

    But there are no plans to change the scheduling system.

    “We want the employees to be productive and energized and feel recharged,” said Hayashi. “I would say that working this 9.5 hours works best for not just employees, but also for the store as well.”

    He said employees were not told they would not be able to engage with managers if they unionized.

    “We were just one step away from having a union,” said employee Chicheng Wat, 35.

    “I hope this encourages other people to unionize — not just those at Uniqlo, but others in the retail sector. This is not something undoable.”


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    OTTAWA—The founder of the online news site The Rebel admits its content and management need more oversight in the wake of a string of controversies.

    One reporter was fired, another founder quit and two other contributors resigned last week after the outlet came under intense criticism for its coverage of deadly riots in Virginia.

    Ezra Levant is now admitting things need to change, saying he’s been a flawed leader who has made mistakes.

    He says he’s going to bring in better oversight of both the business and editorial side of the operation and hire new journalists.

    He’s also pledging greater transparency for the outlet’s finances, after two other former contributors levied a string of allegations over where The Rebel’s largely crowdsourced budget is actually going.

    Levant detailed the proposed changes in a statement late Tuesday, following a memo last week where he sought to distance The Rebel from allegations it’s aligned with the so-called “alt-right.”

    Read more:

    Why did conservative politicians wait so long to renounce The Rebel? Steward

    Scheer says he’ll reject interviews with The Rebel until it changes editorial direction

    Co-founder of The Rebel, Brian Lilley, leaves the conservative media website


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    When David Salazar leaves the Canadian National Exhibition, his hands are incredibly moisturized and his whole body smells like butter.

    “Your arms, your body is glistening,” said Salazar.

    “Everything you eat, everything you handle, you can feel the butter on it.”

    Salazar is the lead artist at this year’s butter sculpture exhibit at the CNE. So far he’s made a butter version of a High Park capybara and the infamous Ikea monkey— and he’s collaborating on a buttery Justin Trudeau cuddling two baby pandas.

    Salazar crafts his high-calorie creations behind a glass screen in a refrigerated box, while fairgoers gawk and take photos.

    It’s slippery and cold inside the sculpting fridge — about 10 C — but it smells delicious. As a butter lover, Salazar says it can take willpower to resist sneaking a taste.

    Read more:

    How best to spend $50 at the CNE

    A taste of the East Coast hits Toronto at this year’s CNE

    CNE to showcase Indigenous art this year

    “Of course I’m tempted! I love butter!” he said, laughing. During the Ex, Salazar will spend about six hours a day handling globs of unsalted butter, but he’s not sick of it yet. “So far I still butter my toast in the morning.”

    By the end of the fair, there’ll be more than a dozen butter sculptures by 11 different artists in the box, said Salazar — including the rest of the capybara family and the doughnut-stealing raccoon who made headlines in 2015. The artists will use 2,700 pounds of butter in total, which all gets composted at the end, a CNE spokesperson said.

    Salazar wears a coat and hat inside the chilly fridge — but the butter still seeps through his sturdy work gloves. When he pulls them off, his hands are shining and remarkably soft.

    “It’s pretty funny working with butter. It’s a little surreal,” said Salazar, who says dealing with the cold is one of the hardest parts of butter art.

    Butter sculptures are a long-running tradition at the CNE, dating back to the 1950s. Memorable past sculptures include Rob Ford reading a Margaret Atwood novel, Yoda and Toronto’s favourite dead raccoon— all created by Olenka Kleban, who organized this year’s show.

    The theme this year is “Wild in the 6,” and features famous GTA animals. On Tuesday, Salazar started work on a giant hog — an homage to Hogtown. He first builds an internal frame out of wood and metal lath, before sculpting around it with dozens of kilograms of buttery goodness.

    The unsalted butter comes in 25-kilogram boxes (nutritional information included), and has to soften for a day or two outside the fridge before it’s ready for sculpting.

    On Tuesday afternoon, Sean Kosonic carved detailing into Justin Trudeau’s face using a small butter knife with “Spread Love” on it. He’s one of several artists working on Butter Trudeau over the course of the Ex, slowly adding details to perfect his creamy likeness.

    “Chiselled faces are always easier,” said Kosonic, as he smoothed the prime minister’s buttery lips. “When someone has a good nose, it’s a good place to start.”

    He and Salazar are both graduates of OCAD University and don’t usually work in such a high-cholesterol medium. Kosonic is a metalworker, while Salazar sculpts with clay and works on public sculptures. The CNE butter artists are often OCAD grads and come from a diverse range of backgrounds.

    Both Salazar and Kosonic like working with butter; it’s a fun, versatile material that’s a lot like clay, in a sense.

    “We produce a lot of butter, so it’s nice to see what else we can do with it,” said Salazar, who last did butter sculpting in 2007.

    As the artists work, people clamour outside the box, pointing and taking pictures. Many ask questions or share their memories of past exhibitions, and Salazar loves seeing kids react with glee.

    People often bang on the glass, however, which gives him a lot more empathy for zoo animals.

    “At times you feel like a monkey,” he said.

    As he worked on the hog, a man stopped by to chat, fondly remembering seeing the butter sculptures as a child.

    “I love them, they’re great,” said Steve Beattie. “I don’t know if it’s much to anybody else, but to me it’s part of the CNE. It’s our heritage.”

    But not everybody shares his sentiment.

    “That’s disgusting!” one man exclaimed as he walked by.

    Probably a margarine fan.


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    A suspended Hamilton police officer awaiting trial after a 2015 Toronto police raid saw him charged with allegedly helping a drug trafficking organization is now facing 16 new criminal charges.

    On Tuesday, Craig Ruthowsky, who worked on the Hamilton police department’s gangs and weapons enforcement unit, was charged with bribery, two counts of breach of trust, two counts of obstructing justice, public mischief, two counts of weapons trafficking, fraud under $5,000, trafficking marijuana, perjury, two counts of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, robbery and two counts of trafficking cocaine.

    It was pre-arranged that Ruthowsky would turn himself in at a police station Tuesday morning and then appear in a Toronto court, where he was released on bail, said his lawyer, Greg Lafontaine.

    The 43-year-old is already committed to stand trial on charges of corruptly accepting moneys, attempting to obstruct justice, trafficking cocaine and criminal breach of trust. That trial is set to begin Feb. 20, 2018.

    Lafontaine described the newest charges, which will be tried separately, as “historical” from Ruthowsky’s time as a guns and gangs investigator in Hamilton before his suspension in 2012.

    “They’re effectively more of the same,” he said, noting more “full-time criminals” have come forward since Ruthowsky’s criminal case has been in the news.

    Ruthowsky was arrested in a June 2015 raid during Toronto police’s Project Pharaoh and accused of being part of a Hamilton criminal group connected to the Toronto street gang Monstarz. He was initially denied bail and spent five weeks in jail before being released.

    Hamilton police confirmed the latest charges in a news release issued Tuesday afternoon but declined to comment further as the case is before the courts.

    As part of his guns and gangs investigative work, Ruthowsky worked closely with informants in the criminal underworld. Lafontaine said dealing with people “at the bottom of the social barrel” was a hazard of the work Ruthowsky did and left him vulnerable to these types of accusations.

    Ruthowsky was “disappointed” to learn of the new charges, but he and his legal team feel “confident” they will prove his innocence, Lafontaine said, questioning the credibility of Crown witnesses.

    In an interview Tuesday, Mark Dobrowski claimed at least one of the new charges is related to allegations that Ruthowsky had an informant set him up with a gun in his former home.

    Dobrowski claims he served 51 months in prison after police found a gun in his then Hamilton home on April 30, 2010. He was sentenced to four years, three months and 20 days on Nov. 5, 2010.

    Dobrowski admits to being a former leader of the gang Original Blood Brothers and has a criminal record. “I was a bad person. I’m out of the lifestyle now,” he said.

    He claimed Hamilton police officially informed him Ruthowsky had been charged Tuesday morning. “I lost a lot of time in my life … nothing can bring it back,” he said.

    Ruthowsky remains suspended with pay.

    Hamilton police first suspended him in June 2012 amid an investigation into allegations that he improperly disclosed licence plate information from the Canadian Police Information Centre.

    He was charged with breach of trust and obstructing justice, but those criminal charges were stayed in October 2013 over concern that the case could identify an informant. The related disciplinary case was still pending when Toronto police burst through his door and arrested him in June 2015.

    Ruthowsky’s former partner, Robert Hansen, was suspended and charged at the same time in 2012.

    Hansen was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice after he encouraged an informant to plant a gun at a suspected drug trafficker’s home in 2012 and then lied to secure a search warrant.

    Hansen was sentenced in June 2016 to five years in prison and resigned that August.

    Darren Mork, the man targeted by Hansen, filed a $1.5-million lawsuit against him and Hamilton police. Mork’s lawyer, Nick Cake, said they are working toward setting a trial date.

    Anyone with information about the Ruthowsky case is asked to contact Det. Troy Ashbaugh at 905-546-4951.


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    Fines for rule-breaking realtors should be double what they are now so the potential penalties keep pace with the province’s rising housing market, says the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).

    Last year, realtors found guilty of violating the code of ethics faced an average fine of less than $6,000 from the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO), the industry regulator.

    The existing penalties were set when the average resale Ontario home cost $211,000. That has now increased to $619,000. It is $759,000 in the Toronto area.

    “For those who willingly break the rules, these fines are ‘the cost of doing business,’” said OREA.

    In a discussion paper published Tuesday, OREA recommended fines be doubled for violating the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act (REBBA) Code of Ethics. That would put the maximum penalty for salespeople at $50,000, while brokers and brokerages would face fines of up to $100,000.

    The discussion paper is meant to elicit feedback from OREA’s 70,000 members to the Ontario Liberal government’s two-part review of the real estate act.

    New rules are expected in the fall for agents who represent both a buyer and seller in a single transaction. But a more comprehensive review will continue next year.

    “The act is 15 years old. A lot has changed since 2002,” said Matthew Thornton, OREA vice-president of public affairs and communications.

    He said the review is an opportunity to look at how the industry can “make sure it’s representing best practices that are in place in other provinces, that it is strengthening consumer protection and really just modernizing it.”

    In addition to the higher fines, OREA says RECO needs to be able to order realtors to return profits made through breaches of the act.

    “Fines may not cover the entire fee earned as a result of unethical activity. In other words, even under a system of higher fines registrants could still profit from unethical behaviour,” said the OREA paper.

    It also wants RECO to have the authority to revoke or suspend a realtor’s registration to practise, a finding that can be overturned by an appeals tribunal under the current system.

    In an emailed statement from RECO registrar Joseph Richer, the regulator also supports higher fines and the ability to make realtors repay profits achieved by unethical practices. It also agrees with the need to have the authority to revoke registrations.

    There were 70,284 registered realtors in Ontario in 2014 and 73,751 in 2015. But that number shot up to 78,780 last year, according to OREA. Of those, 48,117 were real estate salespeople.

    The number of inquiries (for information) was down last year to 25,497 from 26,346 in 2015.

    Earlier this month, OREA officials held an online town hall pledging to hold RECO to account for industry standards and practice.

    The Ontario association is rebranding itself since RECO awarded its core mission as an industry education provider to Humber College.

    OREA will issue three more white papers before the end of the year on education and realtor ethics.

    Continuing education is a particular concern, said Thornton. Agents have to take a $44 online course every two years to maintain their registration.

    “The sentiment in the industry about continuing education is that the process that RECO is offering is not where it should be,” he said.

    Most registered realtors pay a $390 annual fee to RECO and $110 annually to OREA.


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    Thousands of people with Down syndrome, autism and other developmental disabilities are being prescribed anti-psychotic medication by Ontario doctors despite a lack of evidence that the drugs actually help them, a new study has found.

    Researchers with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences have called for “guidelines and training around antipsychotic prescribing and monitoring” for doctors, pharmacists and care home staff after finding that nearly 40 per cent of people with developmental disabilities were prescribed antipsychotic drugs at some point over a six-year period.

    One-third of the patients prescribed antipsychotics had no documented diagnosis of mental illness, according to the study which tracked over 51,000 people with developmental disabilities who are eligible for provincial drug benefits.

    “We don’t know, with the data, why this one person was prescribed or this (other) person was prescribed so we’re trying to almost guess at why,” psychologist and lead author of the study Yona Lunsky said.

    “It could be behaviour, aggression, self-injury, agitation.”

    For people with developmental disabilities who live in group homes, the rate of antipsychotic prescriptions was even higher.

    About 56 per cent of developmentally disabled group home residents were prescribed antipsychotics. Of those, around 43 per cent had no documented mental health issues.

    There is “inconclusive” evidence that antipsychotics are effective in treating the behaviour of developmentally disabled patients who do not have a mental illness, Lunsky said.

    While some studies show antipsychotics can be effective in individual cases, over a short period of time, there is no reliable evidence on long-term use of antipsychotics by people with developmental disabilities, Lunsky said. And it is unlikely that all antipsychotic users found in the study need to be taking them, she added.

    “There’s no way every single one of those people is on that drug for the right reasons and being very carefully monitored.”

    It’s overly simplistic, though, to assume doctors are just prescribing antipsychotics as a “quick fix” for challenging behaviour, Lunsky said.

    One of the major factors behind the number of prescriptions could be the fact that medications are often the most affordable and easily accessible method of treatment for families and caregivers struggling to manage the aggression, agitation, self-injury or other challenging behaviours of a person with developmental disabilities.

    The majority of adults in the province with intellectual and developmental disabilities are covered by the Ontario Disability Support Program, which offers benefits for prescription medications, Lunsky said.

    While a person with developmental disabilities may benefit from seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist, behaviour therapist or other specialized professional, they will either have to spend months on waiting lists or pay out of pocket for faster access.

    Certain behaviours of people with developmental disabilities can also be misinterpreted by doctors or caregivers as signs of psychosis, Lunsky said.

    “You could think somebody who is talking to themselves all the time is hearing voices (but) it may be just the way that person rehearses or thinks things out, or something that calms them down when they’re anxious,” Lunsky said.

    Prescription rates in group homes could be higher because people tend to have a more complex set of issues or be under more stress, Lunsky added.

    Even for people with developmental disabilities and mental health issues that are commonly treated with antipsychotics, careful monitoring is vital.

    “It’s really important to recognize that there is a place for antipsychotic mediation, (to) help patients in crisis to come back to base line,” said Roger Oxenham, whose daughter has developmental disabilities and has been diagnosed with personality, anxiety, bipolar and obsessive compulsive disorders.

    “But . . . it really takes a significant amount of consultation to understand what these drugs are about, not just the positive impact of the drug but what the negatives are.”

    It can be “hit and miss” trying to find a medication that works for a patient with a dual diagnosis of developmental disabilities and mental health issues, and doctors should speak with family members and caregivers to get a better sense of what drugs might be most effective for a patient, Oxenham said.

    Side effects are a serious concern for anyone who takes powerful antipsychotics, which can, for instance, cause problems with movement and dramatic weight gain and raise the risk of diabetes and hypertension.

    But people with developmental disabilities may be more sensitive to side effects while at the same time, less capable of articulating to doctors how they are experiencing them.

    Ultimately, more information is required on the reasons why antipsychotics are being prescribed to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Lunsky said. And more knowledge on the needs of people with developmental disabilities is required across the board.

    “Everybody needs to be educated about this, whether it’s the person who is taking the medication, staff who work in group homes, families and all the people who look after a person with intellectual disabilities,” Lunsky said.

    “How can we educate our pharmacists who play a role in this, and for sure our physicians?”


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    A man has been arrested following a series of small fires early Wednesday morning in the downtown core that also damaged the front doors of a church.

    Toronto Fire Services said they responded to a fire around 5 a.m. at the front doors of the Church of the Holy Trinity near the Toronto Eaton Centre.

    Toronto police Const. Caroline de Kloet said there were five other fires that occurred between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. She said there were four garbage fires and one fire set to a discarded mattress.

    The series of fires started near Yonge and Dundas Streets including George and Gerrard Streets, then at Dalhousie and Gould Streets near Ryerson University, but they have all since been extinguished.

    Police from 51 Division said a man has been arrested but the investigation is still ongoing.

    De Kloet said it is too soon to confirm if the fires were connected.

    There were no injuries reported and police are not looking for any other suspects.


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    WASHINGTON—Donald Trump has threatened to blow up NAFTA less than one week into the renegotiation of the trade agreement, providing an early indication that the upcoming talks might occur under a cloud of menace.

    The president’s threat itself is no surprise. A common topic of hallway chatter at last week’s first round of talks last week was just when he might deploy that withdrawal threat, which many view as his principal source of negotiating leverage.

    The only surprise is how quickly it came.

    “Personally, I don’t think we can make a deal,” Trump told a campaign-style rally in Arizona late Tuesday night. “Because we have been so badly taken advantage of. They have made such great deals — both of the countries, but in particular Mexico — that I don’t think we can make a deal.

    “So I think we’ll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point.”

    He repeated it: “I told you from the first day, we will renegotiate NAFTA or we will terminate NAFTA. I personally don’t think you can make a deal without termination but we’ll see what happens. You’re in good hands, I can tell you.”

    He’s made the threat numerous times, but this is the first time he’s done it since Canada, the U.S. and Mexico began talks last week.

    Read more:Trump to rip up NAFTA? Not so fast: Olive

    Trump’s NAFTA list is long but does not signal massive changes, Canada’s U.S. ambassador says

    What to expect at the NAFTA talks

    Mexico’s foreign minister shrugged it off as a leverage play: “No surprise: we’re in a negotiation,” Luis Videgaray tweeted in response. “Mexico will remain at the table with calmness, firmness, and in the national interest.”

    Insiders say they expect him to keep making these threats. It’s his main source of power to force the other countries to reach an agreement. One well-connected Washington lobbyist at last week’s talks said he was convinced the threat was coming: “Almost 100 per cent.”

    The former deputy trade czar under Barack Obama said it’s an obvious move and he thinks the president made it too early. In an interview several weeks ago, Robert Holleyman said it was a serious tactical error when Trump made the threat in April.

    He said Canada and Mexico gained valuable insight that will render Trump’s threats less powerful at the negotiating table: in April, the U.S. Congress pushed back against him, the business community fumed, and his own cabinet members pleaded against it.

    “It was, at a minimum, terrible timing,” said Holleyman, Obama’s deputy United States Trade Representative.

    “You do that at the 11th hour in the negotiation — not at the throat-clearing stage . . . I suspect President Trump will be unable to play that card again. And if he does play it, it won’t be as strong as it would’ve been . . . The Canadians and Mexicans will say, ‘You . . . will face a huge backlash in your own Congress.””

    That episode in April underscored the complexity of ending NAFTA.

    Without the support of Congress, a president might withdraw the U.S. from the international agreement, but he could not singlehandedly wave away the law on the U.S. books that implemented NAFTA.

    An international economic law professor and former State Department lawyer said he believes it would ultimately end up in court. And he said U.S. courts would ultimately conclude that the president can’t rip up NAFTA without congressional support.

    That’s because the president can’t just erase the 1994 NAFTA Implementation Act passed by Congress. Only Congress can pass laws. In addition, the U.S. Constitution makes clear that Congress has power over international commerce.

    “If the president were to rip up NAFTA, and then sort of jack tariffs way up, I think somebody would be able to come in and say . . . ‘You’re actually violating U.S. domestic law,’” said Tim Meyer, a Vanderbilt professor, former government lawyer, and onetime clerk for Neil Gorsuch, whom Trump appointed to the Supreme Court.

    “I think courts are going to be sympathetic to the idea that the president can’t ignore the legislation that implements these trade agreements. Congress has not repealed that legislation, and they’ve given no indication they intend to.”

    That being said, several observers suggest a presidential attempt to withdraw could set up a legal and political tug of war with Congress over the setting of new tariff schedules — and that would foster economic uncertainty.


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    With just two weeks before the school year begins, students at a private Islamic high school in Toronto are “devastated” and scrambling to find other options after they were informed over the weekend it was abruptly shutting down.

    Management of the Islamic Foundation School, on Nugget Dr., said the sudden closure of the high school is related to “financial issues.” But the union representing teachers believes the move is a form of “reprisal” against employees who recently unionized — something the school denies.

    News of the closure came as a shock to parents and the 150 affected students, many of whom have attended since they were in elementary school, and others who were hoping to graduate from one of the GTA’s oldest Islamic high schools, which opened its doors two decades ago. The foundation’s elementary school will remain open.

    “This is so unfair,” said Anas Thakor, who is entering Grade 12. “It was supposed to be such an important year for us,” said Thakor, who inquired at the local Catholic school on Monday after hearing the news, but was told there might not be space to register so late in the summer.

    “Chances are I will have to go somewhere far from home, and my friends,” he said.

    Rumours about the closure had been swirling for weeks, but the news was confirmed at a heated parents’ meeting Sunday evening.

    “We’re still absorbing the shock. We’re sad. We’re very disappointed,” said Jawad Jafry, who has had two children graduate from the high school. His daughter Nafeesah, a lifer, was to start Grade 12 this year.

    On Monday, school officials sent parents an email saying “administrative and financial issues” led to the closure.

    “The foundation regrets to inform you that unfortunately we will be closing down … due to low enrolment as well as other issues related to the foundation’s administration and finances,” said the letter, signed by principal Viquar Ahmed. “We have been trying to establish a way to keep the school operable in the face of some challenging administrative and financial issues that have arisen, however, despite our best efforts it has become clear that we are unable to do so.”

    But students and parents also heard the closure was linked to recent union negotiations.

    “The teachers have opted to bargain collectively with the school which is their legal right,” said Jafry. “I think the mosque administration is afraid that employees outside of their schools will want better working conditions and better wages as well. The rationale seems to be that mothballing the high school will send a clear message.”

    In May, teachers at the school voted overwhelmingly to unionize, and became one of the first Islamic schools in the country to do so.

    At the time, UFCW Local 175 President Shawn Haggerty said 35 full-time teachers sought union representation to address a range of issues including: “a lack of respect in the workplace, time limits on vacations, poor job security, and an inadequate compensation package.”

    Another Islamic school in the GTA followed suit, but teachers at others are believed to be watching closely to see how the negotiations play out.

    In a release sent out Monday, UFCW accused the school of being “anti-union.”

    “It’s upsetting and petty for this employer to put the children in this community at risk rather than treat their employees with dignity and respect,” said Haggerty. “It’s clear this employer is anti-union and will do whatever it takes to prevent their employees from exercising their legal rights,” he said, adding the union was not given any notice about the closure.

    “UFCW Local 175 will pursue every legal action possible to prevent the closure of the school, the expulsion of these children, and the termination of these employees,” he said. Ten high school teachers are expected to lose their jobs. The elementary school employs 25 teachers.

    But Islamic Foundation School president Mohammed Anwar said this is not a case of union-busting.

    “If we are union busting, we would have closed everything,” he said. “But we are continuing the JK-Grade 8 classes, and we will continue to negotiate with the teachers in those grades,” he said. “We have simply decided to keep the sustainable part of the school open for now. The high school is not sustainable,” he said, adding low enrolment was a concern.

    Anwar said management has met with the union three times in two months, and was increasingly concerned about the additional costs they would incur in order to meet union demands, and the negotiation process itself.

    “We are all volunteers, not experienced union negotiators or anything … but now we will have to hire professionals to accommodate the proper running of a school in a unionized environment,” he said, estimating it will cost $600,000.

    He said the decision to close the school was made last week after talks with the union did not produce “concrete financial numbers” as to how much costs would go up for the school year. He said one idea floated, to increase school fees, currently around $450 per month per student, was not feasible.

    “The community can’t pay it,” he said. “Our family gross income is between $60,000-80,000, the majority of them. We know the parents who send their kids here … working two jobs, living in basement apartments, and making a sacrifice so their kids get an Islamic atmosphere and a good education.”

    Muneeza Sheikh, a partner at Levitt LLP Employment & Labour Law, and legal counsel for Islamic Foundation says: “There is nothing that precludes any employer who is faced with unionization from taking a step back and evaluating if the business can financially survive — and Islamic Foundation is a business — a cost associated with unionizing an entire workforce.”

    But Jafry says the financial argument doesn’t add up.

    “I don’t know of any parent who was informed about financial problems. That sort of news travels real fast,” said Jafry, adding parents were involved in recent fundraising efforts to expand the school and help purchase a 12-acre property in Ajax for another primary school.

    “Now, at the end of August, they suddenly don’t have money and they’re shutting down the high school,” said Jafry. “I think a lot of parents and students feel that our trust has been betrayed. It’s like being slapped in the face for all the years we’ve supported the school with our hard-earned money.”

    His daughter Nafeesah says instead of graduating and celebrating alongside her lifelong friends, she will “now have to spend my last year adjusting to the hallways of a new school.”

    In a letter to the community, members of the student council said they are still hoping for an amicable resolution.

    “Students who believed they were returning to IFS are now scrambling to find a new option, at an hour when the status of enrolment and course selection elsewhere seems bleak,” they say in the letter. “We hope that this decision will be reversed, as it primarily affects our futures.”

    But Thakor, believes it may be too late.

    “All my friends are enrolling elsewhere,” he said. “I don’t think anyone can risk just waiting around”


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    The TTC will close eight downtown subway stations during evenings and weekends between September and December to install new PRESTO fare gates.

    In a statement released Wednesday, the transit authority said new paddle-style fare gates with PRESTO will be installed at the 25 stations and more than 50 entrances that still have turnstiles, some of which date back to the 50s and 60s.

    Forty-four stations and 75 entrances already have new gates, which the TTC said improves the flow of people. Many of the stations that are still waiting for the gates will remain open with ongoing construction, but the busiest stations need to be closed, the statement said.

    “The next wave of construction takes place in some of the TTC’s busiest stations where the fare lines are more physically constrained, necessitating some weekend closures, as well as early closures, both on weekends and week nights, where subway trains will pass through, and not stop, at the affected stations,” the statement said.

    Brad Ross, the TTC’s director of communications, said the work is necessary and because the downtown stations are so close together, customers will be able to walk one or two blocks to reach the next station.

    “We need to do this work and the reason we need early closures or one weekend, is to expedite the work, this heavy, dirty work,” Ross said. “Yanking out the turnstiles and cutting open the floor and doing all that work, it really helps to speed up things so we can get the station back to normal and get those fare gates up much more quickly.”

    Ross said the alternative is to keep the stations open and put up barriers, but that could become a problem in an emergency, and the construction would take longer to complete in that case.

    The last time the TTC closed an entire station for construction was three or four years ago, Ross said, when Pape station was shut down for 11 days.

    Locations, dates and times of station closures are as follows:

    Dundas Station:

    11 p.m. nightly, Sept. 10 to 14

    Weekend closure from 11 p.m. Sept. 15 until 6 a.m. Sept. 18

    11 p.m. nightly, from Sept. 18 until the middle of October

    King Station:

    10 p.m. nightly, Sept. 19 to 23

    Queen Station:

    11 p.m. nightly, Oct. 18 and 19

    Weekend closure from 11 p.m. Oct. 20 until 6 a.m. Oct. 23

    11 p.m. nightly, Oct. 23 until the end of November

    Museum Station:

    10 p.m. nightly, Nov. 1-2 and 6-7

    St Andrew Station:

    Weekend closure from 10 p.m. Nov. 10 until 6 a.m. Nov. 13

    College Station:

    10 p.m. nightly, Nov. 14 to 16, and Nov. 20

    Osgoode Station:

    Weekend closure from 10 p.m. Nov. 17 until 6 a.m. Nov. 20

    Queen’s Park Station:

    10 p.m. nightly, Dec. 6-7 and Dec. 11-12


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    A suspended Hamilton police officer awaiting trial after a 2015 Toronto police raid saw him charged with allegedly helping a drug trafficking organization is now facing 16 new criminal charges.

    On Tuesday, Craig Ruthowsky, who worked on the Hamilton police department’s gangs and weapons enforcement unit, was charged with bribery, two counts of breach of trust, two counts of obstructing justice, public mischief, two counts of weapons trafficking, fraud under $5,000, trafficking marijuana, perjury, two counts of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, robbery and two counts of trafficking cocaine.

    It was pre-arranged that Ruthowsky would turn himself in at a police station Tuesday morning and then appear in a Toronto court, where he was released on bail, said his lawyer, Greg Lafontaine.

    The 43-year-old is already committed to stand trial on charges of corruptly accepting moneys, attempting to obstruct justice, trafficking cocaine and criminal breach of trust. That trial is set to begin Feb. 20, 2018.

    Lafontaine described the newest charges, which will be tried separately, as “historical” from Ruthowsky’s time as a guns and gangs investigator in Hamilton before his suspension in 2012.

    “They’re effectively more of the same,” he said, noting more “full-time criminals” have come forward since Ruthowsky’s criminal case has been in the news.

    Ruthowsky was arrested in a June 2015 raid during Toronto police’s Project Pharaoh and accused of being part of a Hamilton criminal group connected to the Toronto street gang Monstarz. He was initially denied bail and spent five weeks in jail before being released.

    Hamilton police confirmed the latest charges in a news release issued Tuesday afternoon but declined to comment further as the case is before the courts.

    As part of his guns and gangs investigative work, Ruthowsky worked closely with informants in the criminal underworld. Lafontaine said dealing with people “at the bottom of the social barrel” was a hazard of the work Ruthowsky did and left him vulnerable to these types of accusations.

    Ruthowsky was “disappointed” to learn of the new charges, but he and his legal team feel “confident” they will prove his innocence, Lafontaine said, questioning the credibility of Crown witnesses.

    In an interview Tuesday, Mark Dobrowski claimed at least one of the new charges is related to allegations that Ruthowsky had an informant set him up with a gun in his former home.

    Dobrowski claims he served 51 months in prison after police found a gun in his then Hamilton home on April 30, 2010. He was sentenced to four years, three months and 20 days on Nov. 5, 2010.

    Dobrowski admits to being a former leader of the gang Original Blood Brothers and has a criminal record. “I was a bad person. I’m out of the lifestyle now,” he said.

    He claimed Hamilton police officially informed him Ruthowsky had been charged Tuesday morning. “I lost a lot of time in my life … nothing can bring it back,” he said.

    Ruthowsky remains suspended with pay.

    Hamilton police first suspended him in June 2012 amid an investigation into allegations that he improperly disclosed licence plate information from the Canadian Police Information Centre.

    He was charged with breach of trust and obstructing justice, but those criminal charges were stayed in October 2013 over concern that the case could identify an informant. The related disciplinary case was still pending when Toronto police burst through his door and arrested him in June 2015.

    Ruthowsky’s former partner, Robert Hansen, was suspended and charged at the same time in 2012.

    Hansen was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice after he encouraged an informant to plant a gun at a suspected drug trafficker’s home in 2012 and then lied to secure a search warrant.

    Hansen was sentenced in June 2016 to five years in prison and resigned that August.

    Darren Mork, the man targeted by Hansen, filed a $1.5-million lawsuit against him and Hamilton police. Mork’s lawyer, Nick Cake, said they are working toward setting a trial date.

    Anyone with information about the Ruthowsky case is asked to contact Det. Troy Ashbaugh at 905-546-4951.


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    OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has thrown cold water on suggestions the Liberal government wants to sign onto continental ballistic missile defence, or that it might send troops back into Afghanistan.

    The question over whether Canada should be part of the U.S.’s continental missile-defence shield has been rekindled in recent days amid concerns about North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal.

    Canada opted out of ballistic missile defence in 2005 following a divisive national debate, but many defence experts and parliamentarians, including some Liberals, want the issue reopened.

    Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan has also resurrected questions about whether Canada will be asked to follow suit.

    Speaking in Montreal on Wednesday, however, Trudeau appeared to close the door on both ideas.

    “On those cases, we will always take the decisions in terms of what is the best interests of Canadians,” Trudeau told reporters after a meeting with federal and provincial immigration officials.

    “And our long-standing positions on those two issues are not going to be changed any time soon.”

    The comments on ballistic missile defence were the strongest yet from the Liberal government, which had largely sidestepped questions about its intentions in recent weeks.

    Whether the prime minister has succeeded in finally putting the issue to rest is another question, however, particularly if tensions between Washington and Pyongyang continue to escalate.

    Read more:

    A look at 16 years of U.S. warfare in Afghanistan

    Trump’s plan to win in Afghanistan involves sending 3,900 more troops, officials say

    Trump’s warning to Pakistan could push it closer to Iran, China, Russia, analysts say

    Trudeau’s position on Afghanistan was less of a surprise, as he had previously ruled out a NATO request for Canada to send police trainers to the war-torn country.

    The last Canadian troops left Afghanistan in 2014, and despite concerns about a resurgent Taliban, the Liberals have instead emphasized Canada’s military contributions to Iraq and Latvia.

    Still, it’s unclear how the comments will be received by the Trump administration and NATO, both of which have called on allies to redouble their efforts and help end the 16-year-old conflict there.

    “We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy, with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own,” Trump said Monday. “We are confident they will.”


    0 0


    It was meant as a joke, but would prove to be the biggest mistake and regret of his judicial career.

    Ontario Court Justice Bernd Zabel found himself on the witness stand Wednesday at a discipline hearing sparked by his decision to wear a pro-Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” red ball cap to court the day after the U.S. election last year.

    He admitted that his actions constituted judicial misconduct, but emphatically denied that he is a supporter of Trump, or ascribes the bigoted views that have been associated with the U.S. president. He also made clear that he’s never met the man.

    “I find it very difficult to find the words to express my profound regret for what I did that day,” said Zabel, appointed to the bench in Hamilton in 1990. “The man depicted in those complaints is not me. I'm not a racist. I'm not a bigot. I'm not a misogynist.”

    A four-member discipline panel of the Ontario Judicial Council, chaired by Court of Appeal Justice Robert Sharpe, was told the council received 81 complaints into Zabel’s conduct.

    Many of the complainants expressed concern that his actions would leave individuals from marginalized communities wondering if they could get a fair hearing before Zabel.

    “Any display of political or ideological affiliation while presiding in a court proceeding is antithetical to the modern and informed view of the role of the judiciary,” wrote the president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, Anthony Moustacalis, in a complaint.

    “The fact that the particular politic in issue is perceived by some members of the public to be inconsistent with values and principles that are the bedrock of the administration of criminal justice in Canada only aggravates the situation.”

    With police officers stationed outside the hearing room, the panel heard that Zabel purchased five of the hats on Amazon in June 2016 as “historical memorabilia” when it became clear that Trump would clinch the Republican nomination for president.

    He gave four to friends, and kept the fifth for himself and wore it briefly in the judges’ common room, where he said his colleagues laughed.

    After having had only a few hours of sleep following Trump’s surprise win as president, Zabel made his way into courtroom 208 at the Hamilton courthouse on Nov. 9, wearing the hat “to lighten the proceedings.”

    But before going down in the elevator, he ran into his colleague, Justice Marjoh Agro, who testified at the discipline hearing Wednesday that she said to him: “Are you out of your mind?”

    “I remember the day all too well because frankly, I regret not ripping that hat off his head,” Agro testified, looking directly at Zabel, seated with his lawyers.

    Zabel said he regretted not taking Agro’s words to heart before going into the courtroom. The panel heard he wore the hat for about a minute in the courtroom, eliciting laughter from lawyers, and then placed it on the dais in front of him. Zabel said he took it back up to his chambers at the morning break.

    Presenting counsel Linda Rothstein highlighted that while Zabel did apologize in court at the earliest opportunity on Nov. 15 — where he said he is not a Trump supporter and wore the hat as an attempt at humour — she said the apology did not capture all of his conduct.

    Unbeknownst to the public at the time was that Zabel had said in court at the end of the day on Nov. 9 to a Crown attorney: “Brief appearance with the hat. Pissed off the rest of the judges because they all voted for Hillary, so I was the only Trump supporter up there, but that’s OK.”

    The remarks came to light after the Toronto Star obtained a transcript in December.

    “They weren't considered words,” Zabel said of the remarks, saying he didn’t realize the court’s audio recorder was still on because he thought court had ended for the day, but nevertheless said he agreed the remarks were inappropriate.

    He clarified Wednesday that he never meant to indicate that the judges voted for Hillary Clinton — they are Canadian citizens, after all — or suggest that he had voted for Trump. What he meant to say was that he was the only judge who had predicted that Trump would win over Clinton, and he was “gloating” about it.

    Zabel also said he believed his Nov. 15 apology captured all of his words and actions on Nov. 9. Accompanied by police officers, he was whisked away past the media after Wednesday’s proceedings down an elevator to the parking garage where he left in a tinted-window vehicle.

    The panel reserved its decision in the case. Possible sanctions include a warning, a formal reprimand, an order to receive further education, paid or unpaid suspension, or a recommendation to the attorney general that Zabel be fired.

    His lawyers are pushing for a warning or formal reprimand, or if the panel wishes to go with a more serious sanction, they suggested he forego his paid holiday rather than be suspended.

    That’s because the panel heard from Justice Agro that the decision to pull Zabel off of cases last December pending the outcome of the discipline proceedings has “caused havoc” at an already understaffed courthouse.

    She said matters have had to be rescheduled, and a trial that Zabel had been presiding over before he was temporarily removed is now at risk of being tossed due to delay.

    “He's not the only one that's paid a penalty,” said Agro, who has known Zabel for 40 years and said she would have no concerns with Zabel coming back to work.

    More than 60 reference letters were presented to the panel from judges, lawyers, courthouse staff and members of the public, all praising Zabel’s work ethic, impartiality, and fairness toward everyone in the courtroom.

    A retired Crown attorney, Lidia Narozniak, testified on his behalf, saying Zabel was one of her “favourite judges” and she always felt like she could get a fair hearing before him with cases involving vulnerable victims.

    “Justice Zabel is an exceptional judge who made a terrible mistake,” said his lawyer, Giulia Gambacorta. “What happened to Justice Zabel reminds us that judges are fallible too.”


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